(Editor’s note: Three letters were mistakenly omitted from yesterday’s letters column. The following should be considered as part of it.)
Stop it, Kat
“Stop it, Koba. You’re making a fool of yourself. We all know theory isn’t exactly your strong suit.” – David Riazanov to Stalin
A bloated, rancid corpse has washed up on the shores of our convention. It seems that comrade Katsopolis has walked outside her theoretical speciality, economics, and made her first steps into theorizing political organization. Let’s not waste time explaining why this is a painfully embarrassing and dangerously anti-democratic motion.
Division of labor. While Comrade Katsopolis does state that “Necessary committees and delegates…will be determined by plurality” one would have to ask, if representative committees and delegates are necessary, what’s the point of the General Assembly? Either you have a GA in permanent session that does everything (i.e. the clique with the most free time and popularity decides everything), or you have a GA that effectively does nothing while the representative committees actually carry on the functioning of the party. Either the GA is an echo chamber for a clique, or it’s an invisible dictatorship. Pick your poison.
Cliques. If you seriously think that a ‘general assembly’ will not quickly (if not instantaneously) become run by a single clique, then you are either delusional or ignorant. Perhaps if we’re lucky we’ll get a few cliques jockeying for influence, but inevitably this will become an ‘invisible dictatorship’ of those with the most free time and popularity leading everyone else.
Time. What about memberships with little free time? Those employed full-time? Those doubly employed? Full-time students? What about members who are otherwise disabled? This ‘general assembly’ would require so much free time that it would become an echo chamber of those who can actually afford to spend time arguing in internet threads all day.
Plurality. How and when is plurality decided? Comrade Katsopolis says “Votes… will be taken by majority (> 50%) GA [General Assembly] vote” but this is hopelessly vague. Who is the majority? The majority of the entire membership? Is it a majority of the attending membership? What is the timeframe for gaining a majority?
Emergency situations. Say we’ve been infiltrated by some reactionary or state agent, what do we do? Who imposes emergency measures? Does the GA elect a new committee with emergency dictatorial powers? That won’t be subject to abuse by a clique, not at all.
Ultimately, Comrade Katsopolis has given a proposal that, on the one hand, argues for measures that would be incredibly inefficient and anti-democratic. On the other hand, she leaves out so much detail on all the necessary features of a ‘general assembly’ as to make the motion doubly worthless.
- Susie M
Supported by: Miah S, Josh H, Henry M
It is my belief that a party needs tendencies and factions thatmaintain an internally democratic culture. I, however, was afraid that the “Foundations Faction” manifesto was premature and largely adefense of the status quo that could concretize opposite to thecentral committee and be divisive prematurely. It is now my opinionas a mere comrade in this party that the concretized action that thesefactions have caused–in forcing us to hash out disagreements, attemptto reform or clarify our internal structure, and even put to flooropen debate about the nature of our organization/party and what aparty actually is.
Faction Platform planks with the most extreme to call abolish the Central Committee in favor of direct voting of Initiatives in the party. We realize this is controversial but our goal is that our executive being largely administrative and thus democratized, much of the power in the Central Committee can be farmed out to Working Groups
and branch work. We admit that there are other ways to do this so our maximal faction platform is NOT an ultimatum to the party. This is to be worked out by the party, and we realize that many of the proposals may be walked back by the party as a whole. We believe in unity in action, and will remain loyal as long as we can do in conscience and
compromise on Democratic groups done in good faith meets that standard.
Nor do we see any automaticity in the political life of the proletariat; in fact, the opposite, our organize must provide
opportunity for militant or alienated members of the working class to reconstitute their political and social lives and our organization should be a leader or at least strong part of a national and international organizations that lead to that. We, however, must realize that the sect formations that we could easily slip into. Even solid Kautskyite educational parties have had this tendency in the past due to their cell/branch structure.
We also must admit that life of the proletariat is more degraded and decomposed, more alienated than in earlier phases of capitalism and several assumptions we have made about organization must be re-thought.
However, in no way, do I or the anti-party faction think that the total degeneration of the organization is a goal. In fact, we want the opposite: we want the organizational culture to be formalized but also
more clear methods for adapting it adopted. We want MORE and DEEPER re-thinking of the organization and MORE, not less, tangible study and working with left organizations. We want more projects that Red Party members engages with but with non Party members, and clear guide lines for that engagement. We think those guidelines must come from within the organization as a whole.
I joined that faction for those reasons and speak to the impetus that led to them, although I cannot speak for what each member of the faction believes. I was not the prime drafter of the letter as many
have supposed, and despite being a critic of democracy as it exists now, I have pushed for more, not less, democratic checks within our system. We thus are not holding a gun to the head of the organization
in the sense that we feel that the must adopt our ways, but it must deal with what let us to this politics and how we can believe that and most of the constitution and all of the mission statement of the party itself.
I think many of the fears that we are holding a gun to the party’s head are vastly overstated unless our comrades did not understand what we meant be party. Even our constitution calls for us to eventually liquidate ourselves into a renewed and mass communist party that we set up to help create and guide. All of us still believe
this. We just donít think the movement necessary for that to happen exists yet, and it is our mission to create it.
Now that a spectrum of interpretation has emerged in our party from the Foundational to the most maximal we feel is in our parties framework, I actually hope moderate factions develop in response so the entire range of party opinion can be developed.
- C. Derick Varn
“Clowns to the left of me,
jokers to the right,
and here I am:
stuck in the middle with you.”
The American working class has been hopelessly disenfranchised for decades now. Socialists are no better. The two have been completely cut off from each other, with workers increasingly becoming apolitical in response to the capitulation of socialists to provide any opposition to capitalist rule, let alone provide any sort of organizational unity. Socialists have been stuck chasing this-or-that movement such as Occupy, the Bernie Sanders campaign, or whatever local – and usually single-issue – campaign pops up. The responsibility of Marxists today is to unite into a single organization, in a sense a proto-party, that will ceaselessly propagandize for a national unity convention where we can combine the scattered working class militants and fragmented socialists into united party, capable of coordinated national action and provide a clear opposition – and alternative – to capitalist rule.
For this hypothetical post-unification party to exist, it would need to have strong classical democratic-republican principles. What we mean by this are some basic principles:
- Transparency; regular publishing of party documents, particularly those of full-timers and those in leadership positions, to the membership as a whole.
- Accountability; all officials are to be bound to act in accordance with the last majority agreed upon views, with the right and responsibility of the party membership to openly criticize all officials.
- Free elections; all members can be elected to any office; no discrimination based on identity; secret ballots for leadership positions.
- Streamlined party functioning; the internal administration must operate as efficiently as possible.
- Regular rotation of officials; no one can be ‘permanently’ re-elected in one position; limits on consecutive terms in an office.
- Regular education; the party must educate its membership to the fullest extent possible in the skills necessary for party administration, to allow for regular rotation of officials.
Without these basic organizational principles, the hypothetical party wouldn’t be able to function efficiently or even effectively sustain itself. Efficient organization on a national level requires people doing full-time coordinating work; and without these basic principles, the party membership would not be able to efficiently pre-dispose their officials from acting in their own interests.
As it stands now, the American working class doesn’t see itself capable of taking power, it lurches from apolitical apathy to idealistic hope in a ‘benevolent dictator’ to guide them (Bernie Sanders is the most recent example of this). It is the duty of socialists to educate the working class how they can take state power. Only through merging socialist strategies about the overthrow of the capitalist state, with an actual mass party organization capable of doing so, will the working class ever see socialism as a viable strategy. Without proving to working class, especially considering the history of the 20th century, that a mass socialist party would not be able to betray the working class, can we ever hope to overcome the disorganization and apolitical apathy the working class faces.
Points of unity:
- The worker movement in the United States and globally has been on the decline for the past several decades at the least.
- As such, it is the primary task of communists to rebuild the worker movement. While it is a fact that the worker’s movement needs to be invigorated with socialist politics, the Anti-Party Faction misunderstands the merger formula as a “Wait for the working class to move” concept, instead of socialists vigorously imbuing the working class with socialist politics to help them move collectively and coherently as a class, capable of liberating itself.
- The core of this task is to agitate, educate, both internally and externally, and organize ourselves for a national convention, bringing together as many of the militant organizations in the workers movement as possible.
- The unity of the workers movement and socialists must be for the express purpose of forming a non-class collaborationist socialist government, thus our agitation, education, and organization must be for these goals. We must avoid collapsing into ‘simple activism’, without also collapsing into anti-political laziness where we simply wait for the working class to do our job for us. To prepare for this we must educate ourselves, and the broader workers movement, on the necessary policies and organizational principles for effective unity to take place.
- However, this should not be done, as the “Foundation Faction” posits, prior to radicalizing the movement but only in conjunction with it. By building up the class forces outside of a communist party-movement you are setting yourself up for failure, consigned to tailing and concealing your true politics. The motions put forward and endorsed by prominent members of this faction, notably comrade Gabriel P, regarding the labor party orientation are evidence enough of this deviation.
The Foundation Faction also seems to perceive the Central Committee as a fundamentally political-ideological one, in contradiction with democratic-republican principles. Either the CC is already political-ideological or the wrong members would make it so – further elucidating the need for expanded democratic-republican principles. If the Central Committee’s role is to be primarily administrative then its political component needs to be curtailed by subordinating them to the general membership and membership rotation.
- Nor should this be done in an anti-political fashion, as the “anti-party” faction puts forth. Yes, it’s true that much, the majority even, of the working class is currently averse to politics in the formal sphere – and with good reason. But to then tail this alignment and make the party apolitical itself is even worse. “Marxism is a political strategy or it is nothing,” to quote one member of the faction.
- Therefore we see the future working class party as founded both in a coherent program for a working class government and in democratic republican organizational principles.
- The current draft program, as well as the revised one put forth by members of the Foundation Faction, is lacking in concrete policies and proposals for a minimum program of working class political power, as well as lacking a maximum section.
The “anti-party” faction, perhaps unsurprisingly, does not offer any alternative to the lacking program despite a stated need for a party program.
- A healthy political party would require strong democratic-republican principles. That is to say measures ensuring transparency, accountability, efficient functioning and regular subordination of the leadership to the general membership. Comrade Gabriel P of the Foundation Faction believes that at least certain democratic-republican principles – such as the regular rotation of leadership – is “an administrative fix for a political problem.” This betrays the idea of viewing of the leadership as political instead of administrative.
The “anti-party” faction bends the stick in the opposite direction, looking to liquidate the organization itself as well as somehow have an anti-political – yet implicitly political – organization.
- Henry Maier
- Susie Mirtis
- Peter Moody
- R. Murray
- Rick Janis